MSc Science and Health Communication

Year of entry: 2022

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Course unit details:
Science, Media and Journalism

Unit code HSTM60602
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Centre for History of Science, Technology & Medicine (L5)
Available as a free choice unit? Yes

Overview

Each one-day school will be organised around a theme: possible themes could be media (for example 1. Print; 2. Broadcast; 3. Digital), or media processes (for example, 1. Identifying stories; 2. Research and production; 3. Issues and impacts). Like the other Semester 2 modules, this one will include elements of the public affairs strand, and well as generic journalism skills and personal skills. The course will range across broadly across STEMM subjects and contexts, so that it could embrace, for example, preparing online health information for a patients charity; understanding audiences for astronomy on the radio; or the ethics of investigative journalism about the pharmaceutical industry. Guest lecturers from the professional world will explain their work.

Topics:

  • Public affairs strand: the public interest; media ownership and advertising; equality, criticism and libel
  • Identifying stories theme: history of journalism; the journalist’s role; news values; content trends and co-option; research; working with sources
  • Research and production theme: investigation and corroboration; working with sources; framing; news writing; surviving the editing process
  • Issues and impacts theme: Media effects; journalists and society post-Leveson; PR; the transition to digital; the fifth estate
  • Generic skills: writing to genre; writing to deadline; interviewing
  • Personal skills: independence; teamwork, scheduling and budgeting, writing fit for purpose

Pre/co-requisites

Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Major Themes in HSTM HSTM60511 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Introduction to Science Communication HSTM60561 Pre-Requisite Compulsory
Communicating ideas in STM HSTM60571 Pre-Requisite Compulsory

Students will in parallel be registered for credit on one of the Museums and Public Events (HSTM60582), Science Communication Research and Science (HSTM60612), Government and Policy (HSTM60592) modules, and will be attending the day-schools for all four modules.

Aims

The aim of this unit overall is to prepare students to for an entry level position in a media or broadcasting organisation, or as a freelance, or to undertake journalistic activities (such as writing press releases) as part of a broader role in a STEMM company, charity or policy organisation.

To achieve this, the units aims to:

  • Develop understanding of the history of science in the media
  • Enhance critical engagement with contemporary science in the media
  • Identify and illuminate particular roles, genres and forms in the UK mass media and globally
  • Enhance student’s judgement of the potential of media sources, spaces and stories
  • Develop student’s skills at producing media products
  • Enhance students understanding of media institutions, conventions and processes
  • Establish students’ competence in areas of media law, ethics, values and codes of conduct

The aim of this unit overall is to prepare students to for an entry level position in a media or broadcasting organisation, or as a freelance, or to undertake journalistic activities (such as writing press releases) as part of a broader role in a STEMM company, charity or policy organisation.

To achieve this, the units aims to:

  • Develop students’ understanding of the history of science in the media
  • Enhance students’ critical engagement with contemporary science in the media
  • Identify and illuminate particular roles, genres and forms in the UK mass media and globally
  • Enhance students’ judgement of the potential of media sources, spaces and stories
  • Develop students’ skills at producing media products
  • Enhance students’ understanding of media institutions, conventions and processes
  • Establish students’ competence in areas of media law, ethics, values and codes of conduct

 

Syllabus

Each one-day school will be organised around a theme: possible themes could be media (for example 1. Print; 2. Broadcast; 3. Digital), or media processes (for example, 1. Identifying stories; 2. Research and production; 3. Issues and impacts). Like the other Semester 2 modules, this one will include elements of the public affairs strand, and well as generic journalism skills and personal skills. The course will range across broadly across STEMM subjects and contexts, so that it could embrace, for example, preparing online health information for a patients charity; understanding audiences for astronomy on the radio; or the ethics of investigative journalism about the pharmaceutical industry. Guest lecturers from the professional world will explain their work.

Topics:

  • Public affairs strand: the public interest; media ownership and advertising; equality, criticism and libel
  • Identifying stories theme: history of journalism; the journalist’s role; news values; content trends and co-option; research; working with sources
  • Research and production theme: investigation and corroboration; working with sources; framing; news writing; surviving the editing process
  • Issues and impacts theme: Media effects; journalists and society post-Leveson; PR; the transition to digital; the fifth estate
  • Generic skills: writing to genre; writing to deadline; interviewing
  • Personal skills: independence; teamwork, scheduling and budgeting, writing fit for purpose

Teaching and learning methods

Studies of science journalism embrace theory and practice. Theory fits well with conventional teaching including lectures and seminars, and can be assessed by essay. Journalistic practices are best learned by guided practical exercises and iterative feedback, from tutors and from peers. Students are expected to undertake substantial directed reading, as well as to be familiar with the media science that is happening around them. They will contribute the results of that critical reading and experience to the collective deliberations in class.

With staff who are research-active and world-leading in the field, we will offer direct teaching in the form of lectures, workshops and guided discussions. Students will hone their critical skills by responding to this teaching in discussion. They will also learn directly from the experience of media professionals in workshops and small group discussion. In this module the students will be studying the conditions and techniques of professional journalism and in some cases trying them. They will be exploring media institutions, and engaging with media professionals.

Blackboard will be the standard course management system. The students and tutors will be encouraged to decide for themselves about the merits of e-learning, which is a decision about the right form of communication for the task in hand, and one to be made contingently and independently. Our field site is the public sphere where we learn continuously from online systems. Where the virtual environment is under study, e-learning may be relevant and useful. Students may also use online systems to undertake their coursework and of course for the usual purposes of remote and/or fast communication and for storage of digital resources.

Contact hours:

Three one day schools on the same day each week spread across semester 2, each consisting of seven hours’ teaching (total 21hours), which will be organised as appropriate to the day’s topic but could reasonably be expected to include an introductory lecture and a specialist guest lecture from a practitioner (in this case a journalist); a one hour workshop on a case study of print or broadcast journalism and one hour in discussion on this; one hour in an editorial or other practical workshop as directed group-work; one hour of student-led review of the contemporary media coverage of science; and one hour in collective reflection on learning points.

Other Scheduled teaching and learning activities:

Students undertake a mentored project which draws on their learning in the day schools and which is credited separately; they will also have meetings with their academic advisor.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Identify key areas and topics for science communication in print and broadcast media
  • Recognise the differing media forms, and understand their use, strengths and weaknesses
  • Demonstrate competence in developing and producing media outputs such as a news article, press release or proposal for a broadcast
  • Show a grasp of current trends in media science and of significant events and products, and have the skills to keep up-to-date
  • Appreciate the value of planning and scheduling, and be able to implement these
  • Identify appropriate outlets for media work, and know how to engage with them professionally
  • Acknowledge the laws, conventions, ethics and etiquettes relevant to each media field

Intellectual skills

  • Recognise and deploy as appropriate the theories, disciplines and ideologies that frame media products
  • Identify potentially fruitful topics for media coverage, and select appropriate styles, genres and outlets for communicating them
  • Explain the rationale for and potential outcomes of your media proposals
  • Research potential topics responsibly, and with due regard for schedules
  • Engage critically with print and broadcast journalism
  • Develop a good media sense about science communication overall
  • See the big picture of STEMM media coverage in the contemporary context as well as in historical perspective

Practical skills

  • Plan, schedule, cost and audit a writing or broadcasting project
  • Write/design for genre and medium, and to time
  • Seek out, organise and manage research materials, sites and subjects
  • Conduct interviews
  • Engage with regulatory and institutional constraints
  • Work independently when appropriate
  • Work effectively in a team, leading or following when appropriate, and contributing and listening

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Make multi-factorial decisions
  • Communicate with a range of professionals at all levels
  • Engage with different degrees of planning, from the immediate to the long-term
  • Act responsibly as a citizen, colleague, budget-holder, time-keeper
  • Recognise and plan for the needs of work-life balance
  • Ask for, and give, help as appropriate

Assessment methods

One essay on a historical or contemporary issue in science journalism as a profession (2000 words).

Weighting: 50%

A news article or press release based on the work of a UoM scientist (length: as appropriate to the medium).

Weighting: 50%

Feedback methods

Formative assessment offered on a draft; summative assessment on Blackboard and, if appropriate, in face-to-face discussion with the course tutor.

Recommended reading

Core textbooks:

  • Tony Harcup (2009), Journalism: Principles and Practice (2nd edn) (London: Sage) [new edn due 2015]
  • R. Holliman, et al. (2009) Investigating Science Communication in the Information Age (Oxford:Oxford University Press.).
  • Brian McNair (2000) Journalism and Democracy: An evaluation of the political public sphere (London: Psychology Press).
  • M. Bauer & M. Bucchi (2007) Journalism, Science and Society: Science Communication between News and Public Relations (London: Routledge).
  • C. Wagner (2008) The New Invisible College: Science for Development (Brookings Institute Press).

Core background:

  • BBC and independent news, on TV and online
  • Daily newspapers
  • Magazines such as The Economist, New Scientist, THES
  • Television documentaries such as Horizon, Embarrassing Bodies, 24 Hours in A&E
  • News and talk radio

Further reading:

  • S. Allan (2002) Media, Risk and Science (New York: McGraw Hill).
  • S. Allan et al., eds. (2000) Environmental Risks and the Media (London: Routledge).
  • A. Hansen (1993) The Mass Media and Environmental Issues (Leicester University Press).
  • A. Karpf (1998) Doctoring the Media: Reporting of Health and Medicine (Routledge).
  • R. Silverstone (1985) Framing Science: The Making of a BBC Documentary (London: BFI).
  • B. Trench and M. Bucchi (2008, eds.), Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology (New York: Routledge).
  • M. Castells (1996) The Rise of the Network Society (New York: Wiley-Blackwell).
  • J. Turney (1998) Frankenstein’s Footsteps: Science, Genetics and Popular Culture (New Haven:Yale U. Press).
  • R. Holliman, et al. (2009) Practising Science Communication in the Information Age: Theorising Professional Practices (Oxford: Oxford University Press.).
  • J. Turow (2010) Playing Doctor: Television, Media, and Medical Power (University of Michigan Press).
  • T. Boon (2008) Films of Fact: A History of Science in Documentary Films and Television (Wallflower Press).
  • J. Haran, J. Kitzinger, M. McNeil & K. O’Riordan (2007) Human Cloning in the Media: From Science Fiction to Science Practice (Routledge).
  • Public Understanding of Science (2014), Special issue: Public engagement with science, 23(1)
  • H.M. Collins (1987) Certainty and the public understanding of science: science on television. Social Studies of Science, 17, 684-713.
  • Matthew Nisbet and Bruce V. Lewenstein (2002) Biotechnology and the American Media: The policy process and the elite press 1970 to 1999, Science Communication 4:359-91.
  • A. Anderson, S. Allan, A. Petersen, and C. Wilkinson (2005) The framing of nanotechnologies in the British newspaper press, Science Communication, 27(2): 200-220.
  • Peter Weingart et al. (2000) Risks of communication: Discourses on climate change in science, politics, and the mass media, Public Understanding of Science, 9(3): 261-283.
  • C. Seale (2003) Media and health: an overview, Sociology of Health and Illness 25: 513-531

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 21
Independent study hours
Independent study 129

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Rachel Palfreyman Unit coordinator
Elizabeth Toon Unit coordinator

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